Sunday, February 17, 2008
FURNACE: Lukewarm At Best.
Greetings to all eighteen of my loyal fans!
Please accept my most grovelly apologies for my extended absence over the last two weeks. I’m afraid that even my dark powers are no match for flu season, which ran roughshod through the steamy bunkhouses of Camp Von Goolo, pimp-slapped me dizzy and made me its dry heaving bitch. At least I got a good ab workout in. But sadly, between having long, intimate conversations with my plastic bucket and being so light-headed that I kept asking if Obama had pulled ahead of Coolidge, I was falling shy of the lucidity threshold that I like to hit before I post.
The good news is that now that I’m rested and ready for my next review. Plus, my bucket is still nearby – which is always good to have on hand when you’re watching a William Butler movie.
HA! I kid, I kid. How can you not love the guy that had the thunderous, elephantine sack to pitch THE GINGERDEAD MAN and actually get that sucker made? And really, FURNACE (or as it was released in the UK, TOM SIZEMORE MUST HAVE A HOUSE PAYMENT) isn’t all that bad. It’s just not good. Try as I might, I couldn’t get stoked over FURNACE.
And I promise, that’s the last FURNACE pun I’m going to make.
The story revolves around Detective Mike Turner, played by the cartoonishly rugged Michael Paré, as he investigates an increasing number of grisly suicides at the cartoonishly gothic Blackgate Prison. Cartoonishly sadistic prison guard Frank Miller (the aforementioned Sizemore) leads an inmate work detail in renovating an abandoned wing of Blackgate where, decades earlier, the Warden tried to dispose of the body of his young daughter in (wait for it...wait for iiiiiiiit…) the furnace after a friendly round of Daddy’s Super Secret FunTime Touching Game went wrong. Wronger. Of course, snugglemuffin isn’t quite dead when the Warden tosses her in and the flaming, screaming child somehow manages to reach out of the furnace and pull her 170 pound father into the furnace with her. Fifty years later, hi-jinx ensue. The titular furnace relights itself and the two ghosts with the most toast start their body-count. From what I was able to glean, for no reason at all.
Better films have had flimsier plots but FURNACE never produces the smokescreen to hide its shortcomings. The direction is freshman at best and the cinematography is flatter than Bai Ling. But where FURNACE really confounds is in the bipolar casting. On the one hand you have hippity hop star Ja Rule (who puts in a surprisingly believable performance for all of the eight minutes he’s on screen), Danny Trejo (who I’d watch even if he was just buying stamps) and Tom Sizemore (who, from what I can tell, is a legitimate actor and easily delivers the movie’s best, too-short scene as he goes on a mad killing spree during a riot). This B-movie trifecta makes for a surprisingly solid cast for a film this modest. Then on the other hand you have the impossibly chiseled wooden Paré, the impossibly hot chick in lingerie impossibly married to a doughy, neckless prison guard, the impossibly cute and horny female medical examiner that hits on Paré whenever there’s a dead body around, and the impossibly milfy prison psychiatrist whose prescription for Paré’s deep-seated depression over the savage murder of his family is to hump his frown upside down. It’s as if the real casting director died after hiring Sizemore and the only replacement they could find had worked exclusively on BIKINI CARWASH sequels.
FURNACE is not a film that stands up to much scrutiny. Like, why does the DVD case say “UNRATED” when there are no naughty bits (Dr. Milfy even wears her bra during the sex scenes) and half the gore is in the Alternate Scenes? And if the little girl ghost has third degree burns over her entire body, how come she still has all her hair? FURNACE is the sort of telegraphed, unchallenging fare that will play well, virtually unedited, when it starts running in heavy rotation on the SciFi Channel. They can sandwich it between GARGOYLE: WINGS OF DARKNESS and KOMODO VS. COBRA and have themselves a little Michael Paré film festival.